Feb 6, 2018

Licks in alternate keys

1 comment

When you're playing a song in the key of C, any lick that works in C will also work in G (V) without transposing. But when you play in F (IV), you have to play your licks in the key of F. Whats the rule for the other tones of the scale (ii, iii, vi, vii)?

Mar 26, 2018

Great question! A little background info first for newcomers..


When we play a Blues progression "in the key of _____", keep in mind that each chord change (the I, IV, and V) are essentially each in different key signatures. Playing a blues "in the key of C" for example, only means that the chord changes are based off of the key of C ... the I chord = C; the IV chord = F, the V chord = G. The "key signature", however, changes for each chord change, so you are essentially playing in 3 different keys when you play a blues progression. Hardly any blues player thinks of it like this, but this is what is happening.


Example: I chord = C7 (you have one flat - Bb) / IV chord = F7 (you have two flats - Bb, Eb) / V chord = G7 (you have no flats)


In other words, if you want to play the scale that the F7 chord derives from, it is a Bb major scale (starting on F and going to the next F). Try this by playing an F7 chord in your left hand, and playing the Bb major scale in the right hand (but start on F instead of Bb).




There are two approaches to playing licks throughout a blues progression:


1) Physically pick up your hand and move the same voicing of the lick to the new chord. Example: In a Blues in C, on the I chord, Lick #1 starts with C in the thumb. On the IV chord it will start with F in the thumb. On the V chord it will start with G in the thumb.


2) Alter the lick and stay in the same position on the keyboard, throughout all the chords of the blues progression. Example for Blues in C: Lick #1, play as is over the I chord / play as is over the IV chord but play an Eb instead of E natural (in other words, flat the 3rd) / play as is in the C position over the V chord (in other words, your left hand will play the bass on G, but your right hand will play the lick as it would over the C chord).




Okay, now getting to your question. These little "tricks" can only be generalized as a rule for a standard 3-chord blues progression. HOWEVER, if you are playing older "pop" blues from the 1920's which have a lot of chord changes, or any kind of other genre like pop tunes (Georgia on My Mind) or New Orleans R&B tunes, or Jazz / Swing tunes ... then you will run into the other chords you have mentioned.


There are no tricks for playing over these chords that I know of. However, if you listen to what other people do over these chords (especially minor chords) you will find it's mostly scale based (Lick #7 or #8). Lick #7 (and any licks you derive from that major blues scale) will work nicely over diatonic iii - vi - ii - V chord progressions (remember, lower case roman numerals mean minor chords).


Often times, there will also be a "common tone" that will sound good over many chord changes. For instance you can sustain a rolling C octave in your right hand, while your left hand walks through C - Amin - Dmin - G7 - C

New Posts
  • dhmurdock
    Aug 18

    Hi all, I live in Perth, Western Australia and have returned to the piano after a break of 30 years (kidds and career got in the way !!). I am thoroughly enjoying working through the on-line tutorials and have purchased the " Boogie book". I have a question regarding integrating two of the licks into 12 bar blues format (Lick 1, tracks; 34 and 35). I have learnt these tracks (walking base is still challenging !), but can't figure how to do the chord change for 12 bar blues. Each of the other tracks in the book have the pick up note for the chord change as the last note of the measure, making the change sound "right", but the tacks noted just end, with-out a pick up note. I would really appreciate some help with this, as I like tack 35 in particular and want to be able to use it in full 12 bar blues chord changes and combined with other variations / licks. Regards, Dave M
  • robertcwebb
    Nov 8

    Hi again, I released another boogie composition. This one has a woodwind intro, but it's boogie after that. All feedback welcome.
  • robertcwebb
    Nov 8

    Hi, not sure if this is the right place, but I googled for a boogie forum, and this came up. I just uploaded a boogie piece I wrote, and thought this might be a good place to get some feedback, or just where people might be interested. I actually wrote this about 30 years ago! It remained mostly a piano solo all that time until a few weeks back when I added drums and upright bass. I think it really fleshes it out. I play piano, but not well enough to play this! So I'm afraid this is programmed rather than performed (is that a big no-no here?), but I don't think it sounds too arteficial. Or does it? You tell me! Rather than combining existing licks as one might when improvising, I tried to write it all new, from scratch (even the left hand is playing an original bass line). Any feedback would be welcome, good or bad. Thanks for your time! Rob.